(David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA Players Association is releasing its first official NFT collection on the OpenSea Platform on Thursday, with proceeds benefiting voting rights.

In collaboration with Hoopers Vote, a campaign launched during the 2020 election by Entertainment Broadcaster and Producer Ben Lyons and the HEARTLENT Group, the Hoopers United NFT collection will donate over 50 percent of each sale to Rock the Vote and the WNBPA.

Elliot Gerard, Founder and Head of Creative at HEARTLENT Group, is the creative force behind the collection, creating unique works of art that highlight WNBA players’ individuality and achievements.

“WNBA players have always been the first in every social issue that’s on the right side of history, and this is an opportunity to continue to support them as they’re out there balling and doing great stuff in the community,” Lyons told Just Women’s Sports. “I’m a huge fan of the athletes in the WNBPA. They are real-life superheroes that I admire and love to watch hoop and ball out.”

(HEARTLENT Group/Elliot Gerard)

The players of the WNBA have long been vocal advocates for social and racial justice and voting rights. Their work reached a crescendo in 2020 when the players’ campaign for Rev. Raphael Warnock during the Georgia Senate race helped him win the seat over former Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, who had spoken out against WNBA’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think I always go back to the start of our partnership with Rock the Vote. Back in 2018 we started working with them and they just recognized how genuine the players were when it comes to voting rights and all that they wanted to do to amplify the message,” WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson told JWS.

“So, we stayed working with them through the midterms and the major election cycles, and started working with the whole Hoopers Vote initiative a few years ago when we were in the (WNBA) bubble.”

The players’ political and social activism, Jackson says, stems from their understanding of the responsibility they have in their diverse communities.

“What the players have always said is that it’s in their DNA,” Jackson said. “When you think about it what it means to be Black, Brown, woman, a member of the LGBTQ community, an ally of that community, the fact that pay equity is an issue that they champion, that women’s health is an issue that they champion, that all affects them. They see their connection and their responsibility to their communities.”

The Hoopers United NFT drop is a seamless way for the WNBPA to do what Jackson says the league’s players are best at — connecting the dots.

“This is the 144 that gave this country a lesson in civics, a lesson in democracy, just a few years ago and did it beautifully and so proudly,” Jacksons said. “They made a major statement. I don’t care what your politics are — they got people to the polls, they got them registered and interested in voting and passionate about it and paying attention, they got them completing the census, all issues that are just important lessons in civics.”

(HEARTLENT Group/Elliot Gerard)

The NFT series will also celebrate the athletes’ significant achievements on the court. The Hoopers United collection will not just feature a select few WNBPA members, but the entire collective. Each piece of original artwork will celebrate the player’s singular contributions to sport and culture, raising their profile, honoring their accomplishments in the league and directing funds directly to the WNBPA.

“Our goal is to just to continue to highlight how they’re the best in the world and they should be compensated appropriately for it, and this is another way to drive some revenue towards them,” Lyons said.

NFTs, Lyons says, were a natural choice for the product in today’s shifting sports landscape.

“We all want access to our favorite athletes. We want some type of token of connection, and this provides that next opportunity to connect with your next favorite player,” Lyons said.

“This is another way fans are communicating. They’re building community, they’re sharing their love of their teams and their players in this space, and we wanted to make sure that the women of in the W all had an opportunity to be a part of this.”

The Hoopers United Genesis Drop will be available for purchase on Thursday on the Hoopers United website.

Clare Brennan is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports.